A Maltese mother of a beautiful little boy with disabilities is speaking out as her son is not being given access to attend government-run after school services after leaving mainstream schooling and entering a resource centre.
Becky Crossey is the mother of Michael*, a 10-year-old boy with autism, ADHD and epilepsy. Becky says Michael is being denied access to Klabb 3-16, a government programme that supports working parents by taking care of their children outside of school hours.
“They’re not letting me enjoy my right as a working person to provide for my children,” Becky told Lovin Malta.
This situation forced Becky to change her job and even stop her son’s needed therapy since her and her partner were not making enough to cover the cost of therapy.
She said she’s reached out to the government for more support to help give her son the best education and therapy she can – but her pleas are being ignored.
“Therapy costs €100 – €120 a week and I only receive €300 every three months as government assistance – we need more help,” she said.
Becky tried to apply for the national programme Klabb 3-16 so she can continue working as her son enjoys his Christmas holidays off from school.
However, she was told that since he goes to a resource centre (which provides support to students with individual educational needs), he will have to obtain special permission from the Foundation for Educational Services (FES).
And she tried to do exactly that – however, after emailing the relevant person countless times, her pleas for help remain ignored.
She says she’s even contacted the Education Minister Justyne Caruana, but was left feeling like her family’s situation wasn’t being taken seriously.
“We pay taxes, so why aren’t we being allowed to access this service?” she asked.
However, the story didn’t end there.
Her son had no problem accessing these services when he went to a mainstream school, where he was very well taken care of, she says.
The issues only arose when he started attending a resource centre.
According to Crossey, this makes the after-school club’s argument of not having “enough expertise in the field and human resources” to cater to her son sound like a “bunch of excuses that continue to try and segregate children with disabilities”.
In fact, she’s even approached a lawyer who informed her that this may be a case of discrimination.
“We’re just asking for equal rights – they already have kids with disabilities who use these services, so what’s the problem with kids from the resource centres?” she asked.
“They’re excluding these kids from programmes where they just play. Here in Malta, education is failing and there’s no inclusion whatsoever.”
Till now, Becky’s only gotten help from Aġenzija Sapport, who have limited resources and can’t help every family.
There are hundreds of other parents who are experiencing the same problem, according to Becky.
According to Crossey, so many parents have had to stop working, reduce their hours or leave their kids with grandparents who keep getting older and won’t be able to help forever, thus creating a “vicious cycle” which leaves parents without help or a sustainable job.
To make it worse, Becky and her husband have started considering sending their son back to a mainstream school, which they fear will only confuse him and make learning harder for him.
However, as she explained it: “I’m choosing whether I should put food on the table or give my child the education he needs”.
Becky is part of National Parents Society of Persons with Disability which is an organisation in Malta that caters for the needs of people with disability and their families.
Do you think parents of children with disabilities need more support in Malta?